Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga: Cheek To Cheek

25 Jan


There’s a lot of promise in an album like this. The old American standards are often fantastic and the combination of an old stalwart like Tony Bennett and a pop star like Lady Gaga getting together to record an album of just these tunes seems like an excellent idea. It probably even is an excellent idea, but this is not the manifestation it deserves.

Cheek To Cheek manages to neither revitalize the standards with a modern outlook nor to recapture any of their past glory. Show tunes require confidence, personality and chemistry and while the first is present in spades, the other two are only ever briefly seen. The two trip over each other constantly and both alternate between hammy and formulaic. Listen to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong’s version of the title track and you can hear a warmth and humanity entirely lacking in this album.

It’s not all lows though, the backing band does a very solid job. They lay down an upbeat, joyful jazz that is a pleasure to listen to. Also, both Lady Gaga and, surprisingly given his age, Tony Bennett are technically proficient throughout. Both of them still have great voices and are willing to draw upon them. Lady Gaga in particular has a wonderful solo in “Lush Life” that most singers, even renowned ones from the song’s own era, would struggle with.

All told, this is an acceptable album, but the standards are such for a reason and have all been played enough times to have versions that are undeniably classic. With this material, merely acceptable is just not enough.


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